The Lake District is known for incredible local produce and hearty, delicious meals that are meant to fuel a farmer traipsing up and down hills all day, which makes some people think it’s a terrible spot for vegans and vegetarians. While that might have been the case once upon a time, there are now a tonne of modern eateries and venues that cater to the ever-growing herbivore population all over the Lake District, whether that be for a full-on, sit-down, fancy meal, or a light snack to keep you going when you’re halfway up a massive slope. In fact, Ambleside and Kendal are becoming nationally recognised as great spots for those avoiding meat, with restaurants there elevating the vegan and vegetarian food from an option to the main option. Lovers of green things and tofu should read ahead for our guide to the best of vegetarian and vegan eating in the Lake District.
Breakfast, Brunch, and Snacks
Located in Keswick, this beautiful little café serves vegan specialty items and is big on avoiding food waste. Open for breakfast and lunch, they serve up vegan twists on breakfast classics, like the Full English, as well as burgers and pies. Their sweet dishes are also incredible, with the pancakes and porridge combinations a must-try. Most importantly, though, Kat’s Kitchen have a wide range of vegan baked goods for you to enjoy in or take away, meaning you get to enjoy the snacks anywhere.
Our favourite dish is, somewhat predictably, the Vegan Full English, which is inspired by the British breakfast classic that some would argue has been perfected up here, although anything from Kat’s is worth it if you’re a vegan in the Lake District, or even if you’re not.
This Ambleside gem opens daily from 10am to 4pm, and like any good café doesn’t take reservations. Breakfast is only served until 11.30am so it’s best to get there early, but you won’t be disappointed. They serve dishes containing egg and milk so this Lake District restaurant is vegetarian, but everything can be made vegan.
The Big Veggie Breakfast is incredibly tasty and the sort of large meal you feel a sense of accomplishment after tackling, but the other main item, the Chilaquiles, is the star of the show. This traditional Mexican breakfast is satisfying but not too stodgy, the perfect fuel for a day of hiking or cycling. Like Kat’s Kitchen, they serve dessert and pastry dishes all day, most of which are vegan.
The Garden Café
This plant-based café is tucked away in the courtyard of the Quaker Tapestry Museum and is one of the top choices for vegans in the Lake District, for good reason. They have a whole range of specialty baked goods, both savoury and sweet, and they have a zero-waste ethos.
The Garden Café serve up the usual fare, like sandwiches and salads, and the hot meals vary depending on available ingredients, with menu options changing daily.
Part of the Zeffirelis Restaurant family and just down the road from the main restaurant, this slightly smaller, more laid-back venue is ideal for a delicious, healthy, plant-based lunch. One of the more popular vegetarian restaurants in the Lake District, they style themselves as ‘vegeterranean’, focusing on quality ingredients and simple flavours that combine to make their dishes unforgettable. A refined experience made even better by the atmosphere, and one that doesn’t break the bank.
Chester’s by the River
Another Ambleside gem, this waterside eatery is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the Lake District, although in truth most of the food is vegan, bar a few pizzas made with locally sourced cheese.
The restaurant doesn’t take bookings and is very popular, especially during the high season, but it’s totally worth the potential wait. The food is a mixture of veganised local classics and meatless international flavours, with well-made curries and noodle dishes sitting happily alongside mac n cheese and triple-cooked chips. Great food, a wonderful atmosphere, and a gorgeous view: what’s not to love?
L’Enclume is most definitely not a vegetarian restaurant, but it is probably the best restaurant in the entire Lake District, and possibly UK. Despite the tasting menu usually including meat dishes, as long as you inform them of your dietary restrictions while booking you will be catered for. As the restaurant only accepts reservations, this shouldn’t be a problem for the plant based.
With two Michelin stars and five AA Rosettes, it’s clear the food is second to none. They use only local produce and ingredients grown on their own farm in the Cartmel Valley, so despite the high-end nature of the venue it is excellent in terms of emissions and sustainability, which can’t be said for many other restaurants of its ilk. If you’re a vegan foodie in the Lake District, then this is a must-visit.
One of the original Lake District Vegetarian Restaurants, and the main restaurant in the Zeffireli family, this Italian joint is perfect for any vegan in the Lake District. Everything on the menu is meat-free, and most of it is plant-based too. The few dishes that aren’t can usually be made with substitutions to make it so.
There’s a cinema in the venue so you can combine dinner and a movie. However, the food itself is the star of the show, prepared lovingly and with great skill. Our personal favourites are the Avocado Caponata and the Butternut Squash and Almond pesto Lasagne, which are both innovative yet comfortably familiar, like all good food should be.
Grasmere Gingerbread shop is hardly a hidden gem, but this institution serves up surprisingly vegan treats. They’ve been selling the most famed gingerbread in the world for over a century and a half now, and the authentic recipe has hardly changed at all in that time.
It’s a testament to how good it is that they only produce the one type – and also a bonus to the vegan in the Lake District, who can go in and grab any gingerbread they want without fear of eating animal products.